Space archaeologist kicks off online quest

Image: Sarah Parcak
Archaeologist Sarah Parcak wants to create a crowdsourcing project called Global Xplorer, using $1 million in seed money from TED. (Credit: Ryan Lash / TED)

Space archaeologist Sarah Parcak says she’ll use this year’s $1 million TED Prize to create a game that gives players the chance to make real-life discoveries of ancient sites.

The project, known as Global Xplorer, was announced Feb. 16 at the TED2016 conference in Vancouver, B.C. It follows through on the TED tradition of giving its prize recipients a million dollars to help one of their dreams come true.

“I wish for us to discover the millions of unknown archaeological sites across the globe,” said Parcak, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “By building an online citizen science platform and training a 21st-century army of global explorers, we’ll find and protect the world’s hidden heritage, which contains clues to humankind’s collective resilience and creativity.”

Parcak was chosen to receive the prize last November, in recognition of her use of satellite imagery to look for archaeological sites that have literally been covered by the sands of time.

In 2011, her team at the Laboratory for Global Observation identified 17 potential pyramids in Egypt, plus more than 1,000 forgotten tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements. More recently, the lab has been documenting ancient sites facing destruction due to looting and civil strife in Egypt and the Middle East.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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